I try to share an update on this tree each year. Maybe one day I’ll go back and update the book that was written to show its development in a time-lapse photography style. It is here in case you’re interested.
This year, it is a little different, because the tree was accepted into the 6th US National Bonsai Exhibition. I had been preparing to show this tree in a 3-point display since the 4th National, when Peter Warren mentioned he would appreciate seeing more 3-point displays. As good fortune had it, Bill’s call for entries specifically requested smaller trees, 3-point displays, root over rock, etc.
I worked with David Knittle to build a display table or two (more on that another time). The display would include this pine as the main tree, and a root over rock trident maple that I started in 2008.
So, I worked with Bjorn in December 2017, the first time anyone else has touched this tree since my buddy and I first styled it in 2007. I prepped and fully wired it, and Bjorn did some magic and took it from my best work to better.
Then it had a really rough winter and I wasn’t smart enough to bring it inside when our temperatures dipped to single digits for a week. The tree suffered and looked horrible and I contemplated withdrawing it from the show, but decided to wait and see.
By May, it was obviously going to survive.
So in June, I rolled the dice and candle-pruned it. The show is in September, and the first flush of needles would be terribly out of scale for the tree, so to have any chance of showing it this year, it had to be done, so with caution thrown to the wind, I candle cut. Timing is everything with decandling pines, and it needs 100 days to produce the second flush. On June 10, 90 days to showtime, I cut.
A few weeks later, I cleaned out the dead needles, and as many of the freeze-damaged needles as I could. After the new shoots open, I’ll be able to remove the rest. On July 1, it looked a far cry from show-ready:
A few weeks later, end of July, it was time to do some needle-pulling. Since it was growing well, I removed the fertilizer cakes, and some soil in hopes of slowing down growth, and giving the moss a little time to establish. Before:
The profile is a little “lumpy” and with a couple more weeks of growth..or some wire, it should smooth out.
August 2nd, 5 weeks before show:
August 10th, 4 weeks before show:
August 17th, 3 weeks to show, and I noticed some yellowing in the first left branch and in the upper right side. I think this was due to the soil staying too wet; and the reduced amount of foliage reduced the uptake of water from the soil.
August 24, 2 weeks to show, and it’s been soaked in iron, micronutrients and fish emulsion for every watering this week (and set outside the reach of the automatic watering system):
August 31, one week to show. Unwired, in preparation, and still pumping up the iron, etc:
The yellow color of a few areas, and a few bald spots made me make the tough decision to withdraw the tree from this year’s show. I’m disappointed, but I know I wouldn’t have been proud of the tree’s health in the show, so we’ll try for next time…